The richest person in ancient Greece had to pay a special tax. The rulers rode to Alexander, a very rich man, and asked for the tax. Alexander, who liked his fortune, told them that they had the wrong person. He was not the richest, he was only the second richest. "Go to my neighbour, he is richer than me."

So the rulers rode to his neighbour Damaskenos, also a very rich man. Damaskenos, though he had a large ego, preferred money to fame and claimed that Alexander was the richer man.

The rulers took both Alexander and Damaskenos to court where they argued for hours about who was the richest of them. Both of them knew who truly was richest, since they were competitors and had spies in each other's villas. But none gave up.

The rulers of Greece were powerful. They could use the law to it's full extent, but they were also fair. They couldn't tax someone without knowing for certain they were the right person. What did they do?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ IRS tip: make sure the tax is enough to bring down their wealth below their rival. Then tax the rival who is now richer. And then tax the first person again since they are once again richer. Etc $\endgroup$
    – Dr Xorile
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 7:25
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm still waiting for your username to appear. $\endgroup$
    – Jafe
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 10:41

2 Answers 2


They could:

Ask them to swap their fortunes


If the other person says they are richer and they are, you will need to pay the tax so you will object. Whereas if you are the richest you won’t mind if the tax is swapped as the other person will need to pay it.


Alexander is richer. They both say that the other person is richer. When the court say to swap their fortunes Alexander wouldn’t mind as he is richer so Damaskenos will need to pay the tax, whereas Damaskenos will object as he will know he will need to pay the tax.

  • $\begingroup$ That looks overly complicated. I could equally say "They could ask them to pay the tax. Damaskenos won't mind as he is the second richest, whereas Alexander will object". $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ This is almost what I had in mind. How do I write the answer without spoiling it? $\endgroup$
    – loading...
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 11:08

They could...

change the law to tax both the richest and the second richest person. Furthermore, after there is no more incentive to hide their net worths, they would presumably also be willing to tell the government who is the richer one.


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